The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2011 issue.


Name: Symon Chow

Location: Brooklyn, New York. United States

Occupation: Photographer and Graphic Designer

Definition of personal sphere: I guess it would be my drive to remember and be remembered, “The Persistence of Memory”, if you would. Also, doing something that matters to me is a big factor, because as most of my friends can tell you, I’m completely useless if I have no interest in it. I don’t really consider the photos I take to be necessarily, “art”. To me they are more like snaps-shots for me to put in my scrapbook to reminisce about at a later date, but if someone stumbles upon them and enjoys them as well, then all the better!

Artwork in 4 words: Passion Greed Personal Peace

What is inspirational for you: Memories, Stories, Perceptions, Francesca

Currently favourite artists: BD Miller, Matthew Larkin, EJ Bellocq, and all the underrated creatives on the internet

Tools of trade: Fingers, Eyes, Grey Matter, and lots of screen space

Current obsessions: Cameras (old and new), Chicken, and The Little-Man

Personal temptation: Chicken

Artwork: by Symon Chow


Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2011 issue.


There is a common mistake to be made when approaching sexuality in a film, that of showing without suggesting anything. There are dozens of films containing wild sex scenes, shoving the viewer’s nose in them, but few really are bold ore inspired enough to be committed to their  own material. In most of the cases, we have movies that serve the viewer’s basic needs with no real insight. Copies. Because it is not the act itself, it is a raw and passionless image. It is very easy to show two people kissing, but it is rather difficult to make this simple act be felt on a nearly organic scale. How many kissing scenes have you seen and how many made you feel like you are the one being kissed? And the examples could go on…

It is a difficult task to accomplish because then your whole film is no longer focused on a particular topic, or not even on some particular characters, but the intimate interaction in between them which means that somehow the whole films must take their course, otherwise the material might pull itself apart, since whatever is around or in between is only a mere distraction.

In Henry and June, this task is accomplished: one cold care less about the story itself (or about some other historical or fictional context) once he is drawn into the film’s sensuality. Like Bernardo Bertolocci’s Last tango in Paris, this film works with contrasts (something that is raw and dirty and something that is frail and “clean” being one example). Of course, in this particular case, expressionism cannot be taken out of the list, which may seem a rather obvious aspect, but largely misunderstood by others. Because you can say that a porn film is expressionist in its own right, but the expressions depicted there, the image, is cheap and common, mostly because the directors choose to be practical in all the wrong ways. They rely on immediate (yet if – in considerable cases -) pleasures into something the viewer may like, not it to something that viewer may feel.

In fact, expressions and gestures are, in some sense, gateways and they also can cover more obvious aspects because depicting something erotic is mostly like depicting something horrific: sometimes you are best advised to show less and suggest more. Many of today’s films show everything and suggest nothing, so, what we are left with, at best, is a series of mechanical gestures strictly linked with a plain biological process. Not much pleasure in that, is it?

Amusingly, in one of Henry and June‘s scenes we are shown an excerpt from Carl Theodore Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc and I say “amusingly” because as in Dreyer’s film Joan, the saint,  is mirrored in the suffering of Joan, the human, the inner communication (and meaning) between partners, may be very well mirrored in the organic »course of events«.

If Henry and June or Last tango in Paris use a simple artifice of contrasts and movements to unveil an emotional world, Peter Greenaway’s Pillow Book takes a more “abstract” approach. Here we have the link between the sexual act and the process of body calligraphy. It is apparently a more distant approach because most of the characters’ insights are not shown because they are of no interest. There is no process of “discovery” (the mere act of two people undressing one another can be called a process of discovery), here, in this aspect, everything is shown (the two people ARE already naked), but this time one has a blank form he has to fill (the calligraphy theme). Where one discovers, the other summons and, in the end, partially offers a translation (Julio Medem’s Lucia Y Lo Sexo works pretty much in the same manner, less the summoning part, more the translation part).

Another interesting approach is presented in two of David Croneneberg‘s films: Naked Lunch and Crash. The first choice seems very peculiar, I know and in some respects it may be. But strange as it may be, here we have the same act translated in mutations. It is not unveiled here, but described (remember the Mujahedeen typewriter scene) and then fleshed out. Not even the Interzone boys or are “unveiled”. It is again the use of expressionism that does the trick: Kiki, for example. His face and voice are doing everything so we do not need any additional descriptions. The same can be said about Yves Cloquet’s character.

Naked Lunch is a movie about alienation taken literally. The character alienates himself, but so is the movie, fortunately not a in an unfavorable manner, mainly because the film’s outlandishness does nothing to undermine anything, quite on the contrary, some of its aspects would not work otherwise, not even the sexual framework (remove the outlandishness and none of this would sustain itself).

In Crash there is an even more organic approach, more in the vein of cult favorites such as Tetsuo. Here, there is an interesting linkage between the intensity and violence of a car crash and the raw intensity of a sexual act. After all, leaving the physical aspects behind, the sound of broken bones may be seductive in its own right as it may be the idea of symbiosis between metal and flesh, but this is an already visited topic.

Of course the list can continue with films such as In the Realm of Senses, 9 1/2 weeks or even Eyes Wide Shut, each of them having their own patterns and ideas, but I leave you, dear reader(s), to discover them… with your own eyes.

photo | Screenshots. Henry and June

by Shade

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2011 issue.


:: Gertrud Stein is a relatively new project in the electro/new wave scene. How did it come into being?
Gertrud started it in my bedroom with the cover of Tanze Samba mit mir, after the unearthing of my old post-punk tapes following a particularly cheesy disco night. It has also been suggested it might have been a reaction to the artistic concept of the band named Nouvelle Vague.

:: For the moment, there is only one person behind it, also for the live shows. Is this set-up ideal for what you have in mind, or do you want to expand it in the future?
Well, Gertrud is a bit like a retro futuristic folk singer… Think of Tracy Chapman in a spaceship, i.e. I have the computer and synths instead of the guitar. So Gertrud basically sings whatever comes to her mind whenever and however she needs to say it. That leaves little room for someone else – particularly if this someone else were to write lyrics for example. But Gertrud collaborates on occasion with other people. She is currently trying to convince a friend to come and play the ukulele for the next gig. People are welcome. All, except drummers.

:: While seeing one of your live performances in Berlin, an instant thought regarding the aesthetics was the film Liquid Sky. Was that a conscious choice? How do those visual elements fit together with your project?
I have never seen the aforementioned movie, except for the little bit that’s on Youtube. The fashion show. I like it. I like the aesthetics. But the music is dreadful.
No, the inspiration to the video band comes from the Jilted John video on TOTP. And I’ve actually robbed the idea from a friend who had his flatmates dancing on a video while he was playing guitar. I thought that looked awesome. Oh and stupid playback performances on TV as well, where the instruments don’t match with what you hear. I think that always makes great TV.
And anyway, having no band members I thought it would look funnier to have Gertrud and a false band playing rather than just watch me fumble some buttons and dials on a synth. I can’t sing and play at the same time anyway, so that would have sounded awful.

:: Interesting name reference for your project. Gertrude Stein asserted at some point that »everyone gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.« She almost seems to have predicted the information overload we get nowadays. How receptive are you to the music, film and media surrounding you? What influences you during the work process on your songs?
I am going to disappoint you: I didn’t know much about Gertrude Stein when I chose the name. It actually comes from a song on an album by Jeff and Jane Hudson. They have a song called Gertrude Stein. I just liked the sound of it, and the fact that Gertrud is a totally silly name…! Now I have read a few of her things. But I don’t refer to her writings at all.
I have very little concern for the prevailing trends in contemporary music, in particular the mainsteam output that’s thrown at us. I am actually most happy when I am sitting quietly in a field, somewhere in the green, away from the city and the noise.
Of course I also have my little cocoon of Scandinavian cinema, and movies with a surreal touch, of listening to drama on BBC, and the music I like. Mostly 80’s stuff… some classical, some foreign stuff… What inspires me most is actually some kind of longing for better things, it’s a feeling.

:: Gertrude Stein also coined the term »lost generation« referring to the condition of artists in XXth century America. Do you believe we could talk about a »lost generation« nowadays in relation to music, and if yes, what does it gaze at and what does it oppose?
In connection to your project: why the interest in Modernism? How have Modernist writings/artworks influenced you through the making of your first album?
Not really. My music doesn’t deal with this. I don’t refer to it.

:: You perform both in English and German. Would you in a sense consider German more »effective« for electro/new wave related tracks because of its rhythm flow or maybe simpler structures?
Simpler structures in German?!!? No English has easier structures I think…But it’s true that I like the German rhythm… It works well with some songs… DAF wouldn’t work in another language.
English is my thinking language… my intimate language… I don’t know, it’s hard to explain.
It just comes to my mind in one language or the other. I have tried translating stuff sometimes from one language to the other but it just doesn’t work, so I just leave it in whatever language it comes to my mind. Occasionally one song will start in English and finish in German… whatever.
One language I will never sing in though is French.

:: Regarding your live performances, you seem to be focusing on creating effective minimal sets for both the audio setup and the visuals. What instruments do you generally use?
I have a couple of retro synths, drumboxes and a computer. I have a complete studio… but I have given up doing most music from home… Most of the ideas happen under the shower anyway, so by the time one gets to the studio it’s gone. It’s a lot more practical.
And I don’t care about good mics etc anymore… I used to care a lot about sound quality – recording etc… I am a trained sound engineer and I used to produce electronic music like techno, minimal electro etc. I would put hours into polishing a snare drum sound for example… Now I don’t give much shit about it anymore… Of course I like it when a track sounds nice, but if it doesn’t, then it doesn’t…

:: Concerning your visuals – how do you usually make a video and what do you use as material/setting during the process?
Well I had just one month to do the video, so I bought a camera, and we went to a friend’s place, covered the walls with black curtains, and went filming… Very very basic really. I then spent a few long nights editing in my room.

:: Would you say that Gertrud Stein is ideal for an indoor listening or does it become more powerful onstage, in a live a setting?
It’s best listened to while standing atop a collapsing dam.

:: Besides doing music, you are also a DJ, what interesting events have you been involved in so far and how pliant are you concerning your playlists? Do you have some tracks that you enjoy spinning no matter the event?
I just want to be able to play the stuff I like. Sounds like a very basic demand, but it’s not always as simple to implement as it sounds.
Regarding tracks I enjoy playing, I must admit that I have this taste for Schlager that has the unfortunate tendency to manifest itself after a few drinks, no matter what musical direction the night is. That has sometimes caused a few strange looks. But in the end they were all dancing away. Gertrud knows what’s best!

:: On your official myspace page, you’ve included: »Gertrud is happy to play anything pre 1988. Gertrud is happy to play anything post 2001«. How come the gap between 1988 and 2001? Would you also draw a parallel between some of the music released during the 80s and post-2000?
Well most of the music was shit, wasn’t it… What did we get? Losers in pyjamas unearthing the rock’n’roll poser thing… or doing the rap poser thing… The great blossoming of the bimbo. It’s all shit. It even gets worse during the 00’s… In the beginning of the 90’s we did get early techno. That was fun at least. And I liked the whole Madchester Britpop thing… What now? Just trying to think about it is mind numbing… There is so much stupid music around. Or conversely music that takes itself too serious for its own good …
I quite enjoyed the electroclash thing… but I suspect that many were also doing just their version of the poser thing by copying what they perceived as being only a pose… namedropping Depeche Mode because it sounded cool to do so…
I felt more love for the posing than love for music in that scene. Very narcississic…  and not in a funny way.
Now a few years have passed and you don’t see or read anything about the electroclash people anymore, so their music has become quite enjoyable.
Gertrud is a bit my impersonation of the ideal 80’s… The 80’s of the awesome music, the amazing haircuts, the pointy shoes, the make-up, the new romantics. The 80’s as a mirror counterpart image of everything that sucks nowadays. That’s Gertrud.

:: I think we’re witnessing a resurgence of the 1990’s in music, growing especially in the self-entitled witch house/ghost drone scene – many musicians seem to have adopted colourful 90s aesthetics in their projects. What’s your take on that and do you think it could become a point of interest for Gertrud Stein as well?
Well, I have already uttered my mind to the 90’s.


questions | Diana Daia

answers | Gertrud Stein

photo| Gertrud Stein by Aurélie Genoud-Prachex. Courtesy of the artist

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2011 issue.


Again the stream of my words lies choked six feet under, and the only clue of its former existence is an annoying groan than sticks impenetrably to my ears bringing the madness upon me. I still feel drained and incapacitated beyond belief and repair, incapable of stepping outside both the wreckage of my flesh and that of my consciousness.

“Some would say that you are the architect of your misery, and that just might be true. Not that I want to be another voice in the horde of judging bastards scrutinizing every frame of your colorful yet gray days, but there’s still a higher understanding of all this that still eludes you.” “Yes… here comes the spiritual approach of mediocrity. But I still want to wonder the streets in the dark and gaze upon my distorted reflection in the concrete that will one day cherish and nurture my remains. I still want to plunge into the nothingness of the stars and search the lost touch of the god that once protected me.” “Indeed a subject to study late at night. It inspires the stories dormant beneath your skin and divine intervention at your doorstep keeps the sanity watching over the last empire of carefully crafted imagery. Ever wicked tools of your trade disappear briefly beyond the candle light.”

But now you leave. And even if I did not realize, or maybe I’m just deluding myself again, for I do not know what is real and what is not anymore, the bottom of the pit still holds fragments of … something … something that causes the putrid walls of the soul to bleed again. And just when I was getting the feeling that things were starting to go right. Just when I finally turned my head away from the endless line of exterior and altered creations passing before my eyes, that cloud my judgment and keep me inert and powerless. And I scream in pain and shriek inside with every image that I’m doomed to see.

“Good thing you don’t need to get out… right?”


text & artwork by Bahak B

Full article here.



The following article was published in N-SPHERE August 2011 issue.


By the time the world has seen its first elastomer, a long lasting entity has been centrifuged in the midsts of sensuality and depravity. The skin, as personal as it gets, is and will always be the last layer between two bodies, the most unattainable and desired object to be touched, the one thing that is protected by garment. The freedom of looking, however, is infinitely vast, as skin becomes not a tactile goal anymore, but a visual stimulus for ages to come.

On a biological level, skin is what separates a living, breathing body from the exterior, it carries over sensations, it shapes the feel of object touched. On an abstract level, skin is to be shown, to be used as a defence mechanism, to be transformed into the erotic symbol that it needs to be. The more one steps into the depths of s[k]een (seen skin), the more meanings and shapes and fantasies are possible.

What patch of skin would you like to touch? Where does your mind go when you embrace your lover, seeing your hand moving lower and lower? It’s not, ahem, you know, that place. It’s the upper leg, the inner skin of which is always sought, always elusive and so hard to come by. That part of the leg is the one embracing hips, the one that is most felt, the one that can be shown outside carnal circumstances and the only one that can provoke these images without even a hint of depravity.

Along the ages, that visible portion of the leg has moved higher and higher until reaching the inner thighs. Starting from simple bows tied to the leg, and reaching towards today’s intricate designs, the garter has been the instruments of s[k]een, the voice of hidden thoughts, the gateway to unnamed fantasies.

A means to purely hold up the stockings, for both men and women, garters have evolved into an attractor of gazes, a symbol of the upper thighs, a mark of femininity in all its glory. Pointing to the cold, grizzly facts, the garter, and later on the garter belt, are mere articles of clothing. Once useful, nowadays they carry a mirage, a world within itself. With origins well into the deep forgotten past, garters were usually made of a heavy material and tied below the knee in order to keep stockings form falling. Up until the roaring twenties, when garters became an object of subterfuge, a weapon of the new-woman, a place to hide contraband flasks or an entity of emancipation. Together with the invention of artificial silk, stockings became more accessible, and so did the girdle and the garter belt, halfway through the 20th century. Not different in purpose, the girdle is constrictive in nature while the belt allows freedom of movement.

In a way, the garter closes a circle, captures the leg adding undefined sensuality to it. The garter enslaves, possesses, transforms and regenerates towards s[k]een. But what about the garter belt? What is so enticing about it? The road: the road to nowhere, the road to perdition, the path of no return, the stairway into the light. Ask your partner to wear a garter belt, watch it closely strung on the edge of the stocking, pulling slightly, vibrating at each move. Watch it draw the contour of the hips, creating ripples in it’s path, both wave and particle, much like light. Take a deep breath, a very deep breath.

Garters and garter belts alike are visual entities. They breathe in gazes and breathe out fantasies. They draw in glances and generate those minute electrical impulses that feed hungry minds. The seen, the sin, the skin, the s[k]een, the malleability of senses becomes pregnant, like suddenly having one’s retina caressed. Some psychotropic drugs, like LSD or psilocybin mushrooms, are able to mix up external stimuli, making one smell sounds and hear colors and whatnot. However, the hallucinations pass quickly. Unlike s[k]een, invasive substances that are unnatural to the body are more of a temperamental tomcat that is being taken to the vet for castration, than a comforting long lasting apperitive of perception. Once skin is meant to be revealed, yet lavishly concealed, the sky is the limit.

There is a fine art in wearing a garter. There is an acquired talent in showing skin. There is a subtle sensuality in seeing skin. There is a symbiotic union between the garter and the leg. Lift your skirt, let my eyes touch you…

Photo | Anonymous author. Originally published in LIFE

by Vel Thora

Full article here.